Accountants Truth: Knowledge and Ethics in the Financial World


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After reading English at King's College London, he became a chartered accountant and worked for four years at PricewaterhouseCoopers' London office, where his most recent role was to help businesses in financial difficulty. His experience of these two very different worlds motivated him to write this book. About the Book — Accounting is the language of business, increasingly standardized across the world through powerful global corporations: a technical skill used to reach the correct, unquestionable answer. Yet, as recent corporate scandals have shown, a whole range of financial professionals auditors, bankers, analysts, company directors can collectively fail to question dubious actions.

How can this be possible? To understand such failures, this book explores how accountants construct the technical knowledge they deem relevant to decision-making.


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In doing so, it not only offers a new way to understand deviance and scandals, but also suggests a reappraisal of accounting knowledge which has important implications for everyday commercial life. The book is based on interviews with chartered accountants working in the largest accountancy practices in London. The interviews reveal that although accounting decisions seem clear after they have been made, the process of making them is contested and opaque. Yet accountants nonetheless tend to describe their work as if it were straightforward and technical.

Yet accountants nonetheless tend to describe their work as if it were straightforward and technical. Accountants' Truth digs beneath the surface to explore how accountants actually construct knowledge, and draws out the implications of that process with respect to issues such as professionalism, performance, transparency, and ethics. This important book concludes that accountants' technical discourse undermines their ethical reasoning by obscuring the ways in which accounting decisions must be thought through in practice.

Accountants with particular ethical perspectives more readily understand and construct particular types of knowledge, so the two issues of knowledge and of ethics are inseparable.

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Increasingly technical accounting rules can therefore counterproductive. Instead, our best approach to avoiding future scandals is to redefine and reinvigorate professional ethics in the financial world. Gill is an articulate instructor.

The numbers based on which markets operate, their mundane production by bookkeepers, their validation by audit and assurance experts, as well as the various valuation methods which elaborate on such numbers in order to derive so-called "decision-relevant information", are still largely taken for granted by sociologists. Gill's book is a refreshing exception. Gill's analysis contributes significantly to understanding how professional accountants think about ethical issues, and how they rationalize their decisions and actions in practice It also sets a very important precedent for future studies of accounting activity as well as the sociology of the financial world in general.

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It does a good job in criticizing that appearance. I greatly enjoyed the book and Gill's analysis I encourage researchers outside the accounting field to read this book Gill produces insights that are the product of a keen awareness I find it difficult to be critical of this work. Having thought about these types of accounting topics for many years, I was surprised by the new dimentionality that Gill's book opened on them. It charts the social influence accountants have on each other and the deforming results of this mutual influence. More, it shows a great and perhaps tragic conundrum: that ethics are rendered fragile by collaboration and cooperation - among people who are not minded to commit crime.


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The work of a writer who is both a trained accountant and a sociologist, this is a landmark study. Added to basket. A Farewell to Alms. Gregory Clark.

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Accountants' Truth: Knowledge and Ethics in the Financial World

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